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Staten Island wins dispute with Brooklyn over $9 million estate

In a classic example of what can go wrong when people fail to create wills, public administrators from Brooklyn and Staten Island recently had to square off in a Staten Island Surrogate's court with dueling claims to the administration of an estate valued at $9 million.

The story began in 2006 when a Brooklyn State Supreme Court justice named the woman's godson as her legal guardian. In addition to other powers, that ruling gave the legal guardian the authority to determine what to do with her house, as she had been living elsewhere in a Brooklyn nursing home since 2004. The guardian decided to have her home demolished and the parcel of land it sat on was sold at a later date. In 2008, the woman's health had deteriorated to a point where she required a greater level of care than her nursing home in Brooklyn could provide. In 2008, her legal guardian moved the woman to a better medical facility in Staten Island where she died without a will in 2013.

After the woman's death the public administrators of both Staten Island and Brooklyn filed claims to administer her rather substantial estate. Brooklyn's position was that it should receive the appointment because the descendant voluntarily lived out her entire life there. In other words, it was the woman's godson who made the decision to move her to Staten Island and not her own conscious choice. Conversely, Staten Island argued that the location in Brooklyn had become untenable as her domicle because it was unable to supply adequate care. Also, the destruction of her home and the selling of that land indicated that she had no intent of returning to Brooklyn to live. The surrogate found Staten Island's argument more compelling and concluded that the woman's last place of domicile was in Staten Island.

Regardless of how you feel about the merits of both arguments, there is probably a good chance that you have very definite ideas about the succession of your assets and property after you pass. But what if you're still here, yet unable to speak up? If there is any good lesson to be learned from this case about estate administration and probate it is that you should take a little time now to do some planning while you still have a say in the matter.

Source: SILive.com, "Staten Island public administrator wins $9 million tug-of-war with Brooklyn counterpart over woman's estate" Frank Donnelly, Apr. 02, 2014

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